Do you know your calories?


Do you know your calories?


The Experiment

For my nutrition module at university, I was required to undertake a diet project for 5 days, whereby I recorded everything I ate. This included weighing out every portion of food, in order to calculate the exact number of grams, and therefore, calories. The idea was to work out how many calories a day you were consuming from carbohydrates, protein and fat and to compare this to the stated guidelines. 

Guidelines

We have all heard the relative figures- 2000 calories a day for girls and 2500 for men. Whilst I do not normally count calories and am more interested in eating nutritional food, if I were to guess, I would say I usually eat in the region of 1700 calories. This would comprise mainly of protein and fat with some carbs, but few calories from sugar. 


My Food Diary


Broken down

As you can see, during the week I ate an extremely clean diet. Lots of vegetables and protein, both after my workouts and generally, with limited treats. However, draw your attention to the bottom box of the table - Total calorie consumption...

I am sure you are almost as shocked as I was. Calculating my total calories for the day left me confused, worried and genuinely lost for words. I had always assumed that I understood calories - how many were in each food and therefore how to get my desired total throughout the day. I was almost positive that on average I was getting the required intake of calories, with good amounts of each nutrients. Unfortunately the facts show otherwise. 

Eating Clean

To me, clean eating refers to a diet high in protein, lots of vegetables and some complex carbs, with little snacking on sugary treats. However, I ate like that for a week and came out with a 4664 calorie deficit over the 6 days; an average of -777 calories a day. This may be termed 'clean eating' but it sure for one isn't 'healthy'. 

After the first day, only 876 calories consumed, I knew something had to be changed. I upped all my meals in size and consumed calorie dense foods such as peanut butter, feta cheese and nuts. I even treated myself to a hot chocolate after dinner for comfort. I managed to get my consumption up to1369 - an improvement, but by no means ideal. Each day after, I tried to keep my calories up and fluctuated around the 1300 mark. 

Still Concerned

For an active person like me- teaching daily HIIT sessions, cycling and walking to and from uni multiple times a day and playing sports, 1300 calories is most certainly not enough. I am extremely disappointed in the fact that whilst I would describe myself as healthy, I am essentially starving myself - clearly not a healthy trait. 

My BMR is about 1300 calories, meaning that my body needs 1300 calories just to complete normal bodily functions even before I do any activity. Therefore I am eating the bare minimum when it comes to energy in. 

Saving Grace

Whilst I am concerned and confused with my eating habits, there is one saving grace. If we compare the food I ate on Sunday - when I was not tracking my calorie consumption - to the other days, you can see an obvious difference. I indulged in a biscuit bar, had a challah roll with multiple toppings including cheese, peanut butter, smoked salmon etc (not all together!) and had a high protein and carb breakfast. My portion sizes were presumably bigger as I had no clue how much my food weighed and therefore whether I was hitting the 'standard portion' or over eating. I can quite confidently say that I probably ate more calories on Sunday than any other day. 

Conclusions

Overall this has been an eye opening experiment for me. I have really had the facts drummed into me that eating clean doesn't necessarily mean eating healthily. I always kept to a low carb diet, but a chicken breast and veg on it's own has very little energy. I have seen first hand how little I eat when I decide to cut out carbs and snacks and it is not anywhere near enough! 

Treat Day

Eating a very low calorie diet like I did last week, my body is likely to have gone into starvation mode, meaning my metabolism will have slowed down. Therefore, today (Monday 20th) I am going to have a cheat day - very high carb and indulge in whatever I want. I am going to shock my body into burning more calories and then for the rest of the week will eat HEALTHILY-  Protein, fat AND CARBS!

Give it a go

As tedious as weighing and documenting everything I ate was, I really do urge you to give it a go. I have learnt so much from it and from now on will really put in the effort to eat more calories. I'm not saying that I will eat a chocolate muffin everyday to reach my 2000, but I will try to up my carb intake and definitely increase my breakfast size. Eating close to 1300 calories just cannot sustain my activity levels. 

So watch out for my food diary for the coming week, I am going to make the extra effort to eat clean AND healthy!